For the vast majority of the population, those of us who have been educated in public schools, or consume our news from main stream media outlets, we know that the Environmental Protection Agency is here to protect the environment. Mainly from evil businesses who seek to pollute public lands, waters, and air in order to increase their profits.
This is a noble cause, but one that is actually not served by the EPA. In fact, just like the Department of Defense makes us less safe with their offensive war strategies, and just like the Department of Education reduces educational opportunities by enforcing a public school monopoly, the EPA actually permits and allows pollution to happen by these profit seeking businesses.
Take for example this current fight over the dumping of fracking wastewater in the Gulf of Mexico. From the article:
“Under the EPA’s current and draft permits, offshore drillers are allowed to dump an unlimited amount of fracking and acidizing chemicals overboard as long as they are mixed with the wastewater that returns from undersea wells. Oil and gas platforms dumped more than 75 billion gallons of these “produced waters” directly into the Gulf of Mexico in 2014 alone, according to the Center’s analysis of EPA records.
These large volumes of wastewater cannot contain oil and must meet toxicity standards, but oil and gas operators are only required to test the waste stream a few times a year. Monsell said these tests could easily be conducted at times when few or no fracking chemicals are present in the wastewater.”
This is basically every EPA fight in a nutshell. Environmental groups seek to stop businesses from polluting, then those businesses claim that the pollution isn’t harmful. These groups and businesses then lobby and donate to politicians, and government sets standards that the businesses have to follow in order to pollute.
Environmental groups get to claim a small victory, but also get to soak their donors for more money since their job isn’t done yet (and it never will be!) Businesses get to continue to pollute on public lands and waters, while using their influence to encourage favorably written regulations (like the now famous act that limits liability for oil spills). Politicians and lobbyists get to continue to stay in power and rake in money from all sides.
Who’s to Blame?
Clearly the current system is flawed. The blame is often focused on these businesses for their desires to pollute. This may be a logical and correct way of looking at it, but the businesses aren’t the root cause of the problem. Government is. More specifically, government ownership of lands and bodies of water is the problem.
Just like government creates incentives for poor and downtrodden people to make a living off collecting welfare, it also creates incentives for businesses to pollute on the very lands it is entrusted to protect. Instead of blaming downtrodden people for collecting welfare, and instead of blaming businesses for polluting on public land, the real solution to both problems is getting government out of the way.
Fixing The Problem
The first step to fixing pollution is privatizing. Everything. Rivers, lakes, forests, lands, everything. The fact is, there is nothing inherently wrong with polluting. As long it’s done exclusively on your own property, and no damage is done to anyone else’s property as a result of your pollution, there’s no need to stop it.
At this point, however, pollution will become very expensive. Take the above fracking wastewater issue as an example. For the oil companies to be able to dump their wastewater in the ocean, they’d either have to own a significant amount of ocean, which would cost millions, if not billions of dollars to acquire. Or, they’d have to pay the owners of the ocean they’re drilling in for the right to dump the wastewater. If this wastewater is truly harmless, and wouldn’t hurt the ocean in any significant way, the owners may allow the dumping for a small fee. However, if it will damage the ocean, it wouldn’t make sense for the owners to allow this to happen. It simply wouldn’t be profitable.
In a free market, without government allowing companies to simply use public lands and waters as a dumping ground, companies would have to bare the true cost of their pollution. It wouldn’t make sense to spend millions and billions of dollars buying up lands and bodies of waters just to then destroy them, as it would be much cheaper to innovate a way to produce their goods with significantly less pollution.
The second step to fixing the problem is to eliminate any laws that cap the liability of polluters. After all, if it becomes too expensive for me to buy lands and bodies of water to pollute on, and no one will lease me land to pollute on, why not just dump on other people’s property?
Not only should I be liable for any and all damage done to the property of others, but if I intentionally damage or pollute the property of others, I should be held criminally liable as well. Just like in real life, if I accidentally drive into a parked car, I’m civilly liable for the damages, but I won’t end up in jail. If it can be proven that I intentionally drive into a parked car, I can now be charged criminally, and possibly end up in jail as a result.
Without these current protections provided by government, both from liability and criminal prosecutions, companies will be put in a position to find a way to produce their goods without destroying the environment. Nothing will eliminate all waste and pollution, but a free market would force companies to either pollute their own land at their own significant costs, or actually find an innovative way to change their production in a way as to significantly reduce or eliminate pollution.
This article was originally published on Mike’s website levelheadedlibertarian.com